Jon Langford & Jenny Lewis Review

This week on Sound Opinions, Jim and Greg sit down with Chicago-based musician Jon Langford to talk about his new album and recent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Also, reviews of the new album from rising indie-popster Jenny Lewis.

Jon Langford
Download Subscribe via iTunes

Music News

The first news story this week involves a deal made between the band Korn and the concert promoters formally known as Clear Channel- Live Nation. Korn, its label, and Live Nation, which runs about 70% of venues across the country, have agreed to share profits from record and ticket sales. This kind of synergy helps sell the Korn brand and maintain the idea of music acts as corporations. And, as Greg points out, deals like this could really revolutionize the music industry. Korn is not the first group to operate this way, however. British pop sensation Robbie Williams struck such a deal in 2002. Fellow Brits Radiohead, on the other hand, have chosen to go a completely different route. By not working with corporate promoters at all, they avoid the corporate concert machine entirely. As Radiohead fans in Chicago know, though, this is not an easy task.

Next up in the news is the bankruptcy announcement made by the largest chain of music stores, Musicland. While our hosts now prefer to support independent music stores, Jim (who was once a Musicland employee of sorts) remembers buying his first record, an album by King Crimson, at a similar chain store. For Jim and Greg, and many music fans who grew up shopping for music at the mall, the fall of Musicland is really the end of an era—or the death of a dinosaur.

Also making headlines this week is the always-controversial rapper Eminem. He and ex-wife Kimberly Mathers remarried. Like Sid and Nancy, and Kurt and Courtney before them, Marshall and Kim have a love story for the ages. Kim, both muse and mother, has managed to overlook some of the less kind words Eminem has said about her. Therefore, the romantics on the Sound Opinions staff wishes to congratulate those crazy kids. Mazel Tov, Em and Kim!

The Rolling Stones also make an appearance in the news. The latest all-stars to perform in the Superbowl Halftime Show, the Stones can hope to appeal to all generations of viewers. The Superbowl, however, seems a bit concerned. Despite the fact that the average age of a Stone is 65, halftime show producers initially tried to ban people over the age of 45 from coming up on stage to dance. The ban has since been removed, but sports fans shouldn’t expect to see the Ashlee Simpson crowd getting down to Start Me Up.

Finally, Jim and Greg remember soul great Wilson Pickett, who died Thursday. The singer, often called Wicked Pickett, was known for his wicked sound and behavior. Pickett, who grew up on a sharecropping farm in Alabama, fled to the north to make music. He later returned to the south to record some of his most famous songs, including Mustang Sally, In the Midnight Hour and Land of a 1000 Dances, which was embraced by punk rockers like Patti Smith. Pickett did covers as well. Listen to his version of Hey Jude, which never ended up on a regular studio release, but can be heard on Pickett compilations.

Jon Langford

Next up, Jim and Greg sit down with Jon Langford of The Mekons, and his current band, Ship and Pilot. Many of the band members will be familiar to music fans, including fellow Mekons singer Sally Timms and punk rock pioneer Tony Maimone of Pere Ubu. In addition to playing with The Mekons and Ship and Pilot, Jon is a member of the Waco Brothers and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts. In addition, he is a painter and author and recently put on a multi-media performance at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art based on his three-volume set The Executioner’s Last Songs. Those albums raised money for the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

If that wasn’t enough, Jon Langford also has a new album coming out in March. Hear live performances of some songs off that album on the show. In addition, Gold Brick features a cover of the Procol Harem song Salty Dog. Like Jon, Greg is a big Procol Harem fan and wonders why aside from their hit Whiter Shade of Pale, they were so underappreciated. Perhaps they just needed to be on more soundtracks.

Rabbit Fur Coat Jenny Lewis

Rabbit Fur Coat

The review this week is of the solo album from rising indie pop star Jenny Lewis. Lewis is best known for her work with the bands Rilo Kiley and The Postal Service. (Oh, and true pop culture mavens might also remember a young Lewis from ‘80s movies like Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard.) Rabbit Fur Coat is Lewis’s first solo effort, and initially both Jim and Greg were skeptical. How can a born-and-bred Hollywood girl make beautiful alternative country pop? The answer stems from Lewis’s voice, which Jim compares to that of Dusty Springfield, and the songs’ complicated, self-aware lyrics. The album, released on Team Love Records (the boutique label run by Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst) gets a Buy It rating from both our critics.

Jim

This week, it’s by Chicago punk band Screeching Weasel. For Jim, Screeching Weasel is key to understanding the current pop/punk explosion of bands like Blink 182, Sum 41 and fellow Chicagoans Fall Out Boy. In addition, this band has one of the best-documented histories in rock. A few years ago Ben œWeasel Foster put out a highly autobiographical novel that alludes to his time in the band. Recently, his Weasel partner John Jughead Pierson released his fictional response, Weasels in a Box. Despite their great influence on rock, many people have not heard of the band. One of the reasons for this, Jim notes, is that Foster suffered from agoraphobia, preventing the band from touring much. They were highly prolific, however, and recorded almost an album a year for 13 years. Acknowledge was released on Screeching Weasel’™s last album before disbanding. In the song, both Weasels sing about agoraphobia and substance abuse, but without losing their punk rock sense of humor or catchy, Ramones-style three-chord structure. It’™s this combination, says Jim, that makes Screeching Weasel one of the best bands Chicago has ever produced.

Dear Listeners,

For more than 15 years, Sound Opinions was a production of WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station. Now that the show is independent, we're inviting you to join the band and lend a hand! We need your support more than ever because now we have to do all the behind-the-scenes work that WBEZ handled before (like buying insurance and paying for podcast hosting, ugh). Plus, we have some exciting ideas we'd like to try now that there's no one to tell us no!